Where the ‘Sidewalk’ Ends: Amazon Secures Dismissal of Consumers’ Mesh Network Bandwidth Theft Suit

Amazon.com Services LLC and Amazon Digital Services LLC have secured an early victory over Echo smart speaker owners in a case alleging that Amazon used their internet bandwidth without permission to create a mesh network called “Sidewalk.” According to Judge Barbara J. Rothstein’s opinion, the consumers failed to plead requisite elements of their Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA), Theft of Telecommunications Services, and unjust enrichment claims.

Monday’s decision recounts allegations leveled at Amazon in the plaintiffs’ first amended complaint. Therein, and similar to the first version of their suit, the consumers allege that Amazon’s smart speakers draw on the bandwidth and data of private internet accounts belonging to owners of the Echo devices. The company reportedly does this to “eliminate interstitial gaps in WiFi, and allow[] low-bandwidth devices like pet trackers, outdoor security lights, and smart locks, which might otherwise be out of range, to more readily access the internet.”

The plaintiffs aver that they did not consent to Amazon’s usage of their internet and that they were harmed by lost value of their personal internet bandwidth, time spent learning about and disabling the Sidewalk function on Sidewalk Devices, and internet data use overage charges.  Amazon sought dismissal of the suit in November.

This week’s opinion first considered whether the claimed harm amounted to injury under the CPA and concluded it did not. The complaint was void of allegations that the plaintiffs’ Echo ever actually connected through Sidewalk, or that their data and bandwidth were ever actually shared, the opinion said. In addition, they failed to allege that “they subscribe to a limited data plan,” as the taking of data from an unlimited plan, even without compensation or consent, does not amount to injury.

Judge Rothstein then dismissed the plaintiffs’ Theft of Telecommunications Services claim, citing the fact that the plaintiffs failed to plead all elements thereof. Specifically, there was no allegation that Amazon itself “obtained” any telecommunication services without paying for it. “At most, Amazon has created a technology that enables this taking to occur; it does not itself obtain the services, an essential element of the claim,” the court opined.

Similarly, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims for failure to demonstrate that they conferred a benefit on Amazon. Judge Rothstein granted the plaintiffs leave to file a motion to amend the complaint with a deadline of April 22.

The consumers are represented by Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC, The Brad Sohn Law Firm PLLC, and LippSmith LLP. Amazon is represented by Fenwick & West LLP.